• The West Pilbara has potentially monster hard rock lithium deposits to dig up, this time around Azure Minerals’ Andover 
  • De Grey Mining really doesn’t know how to stop proving up gold at its giant Pilbara gold projects
  • Nearology is a thing. A very very good thing


A few years ago the top of the central Pilbara, just south of Karratha, was thought highly prospective for gold, lithium, copper-nickel and even cobalt mineralisation, with a tonne of juniors looking to find the next Mt Sholl or Pilgangoora.

The search for these deposits didn’t always work out, and some gave up. Others decided to stick it out, and we’ve highlighted explorers determined to find Pilbara’s next big gold and lithium deposits

Read on down to find out which gems we’ve plucked out for you and why they could go gangbusters soon.


The discovery that’s sent Pilbara explorers into a lithium frenzy

One of WA’s largest recent lithium finds is Azure Minerals’ (ASX:AZS) Andover project in the prolific West Pilbara hard rock lithium district.

Backed by WA mining boffin Mark Creasy (40%), two years ago AZS was scouring its tenements for nickel-copper-cobalt when it started to test the “very obvious” pegmatites it was running into.

“As soon as we started informing the market of this, there was a very positive reaction to it and I think that is telling us a very strong message – ‘Azure, stick to your lithium’,” MD Tony Rovira told Stockhead last year.

Interest in a takeover for the company would become nailed on in August last year after stumbling upon a massive 209m spodumene intersection grading @ 1.42% Li2O – one of the best lithium drilling results ever – rocketing the already $1bn market-capped explorer’s share price up 20%.

Since then, it’s drilled a whopping 217 diamond holes for 69,669.8m, 94 RC holes for 18,775m and 28 RC pre-collars and diamond tails for 12,700.7m and has defined an exploration target of between 100-240Mt @ 1-1.5% Li2O – absolutely massive.


project stock ASX (gre)
Project locations in the Pilbara. Source: GRE


Chilean lithium giant SQM looked nailed on to take over the explorer in August last year, however, Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting grabbed a significant amount of stakes – enough so that the two companies reached a deal for a joint takeover bid of $3.70 per share – valuing the company at $1.7bn.

AZS is still spinning nine diamond rigs ahead of a maiden resource for Andover expected in the June quarter.


Lithium nearology in the West Pilbara

Following in the footsteps of 2023 market darling AZS are GreenTech Metals (ASX:GRE) and Artemis Resources (ASX:ARV) which are targeting their own lithium find just 25km from Andover.

Interestingly, GreenTech is a spinout of Artemis – once a gold junior that rode the Pilbara’s ‘conglomerate gold’ rush hype in 2017 where geologists were seeking the Witwatersrand-type mineralisation-style gold deposits of South Africa – one of the largest gold districts in the world.

They partnered together to form the Osborne JV in 2022 looking to prove up copper and nickel targets until it stumbled upon high-grade lithium pegmatites trends.

GreenTech holds a 51% interest with Artemis (49%) where exploration at the Osborne pegmatite trend is evolving into an exciting target over its ~700m strike length showing high lithium grades of up to 2.36% recently.

GRE exec director Thomas Reddicliffe says that in light of the recent $1.7bn takeover offer for Azure, the West Pilbara is continuing to cement its position as one of the premier global jurisdictions for hard rock lithium exploration.

“Exploration has delivered valuable stratigraphic and structural information relating to the subsurface characteristics of these pegmatite zones and will aid in refining the more detailed follow-up drill program,” Reddicliffe says.

“Our forward programs include a maiden RC drill program to build on our understanding of known pegmatite trends, as well as identifying new zones that have been highlighted by our rock chip sampling and soil sampling.”


Pilbara’s golden unicorn

While some have moved from gold exploration into Pilbara’s lithium, others have gone the other way – more central in fact.

Take New Age Exploration (ASX:NAE) for example, which last year was shallow-testing multiple lithium-caesium-tantalum (LCT) pegmatite targets similar to major deposits such as Mineral Resources’ (ASX:MIN) Wodgina, Pilbara Minerals’ (ASX:PLS) Pilgangoora and Andover.

Yet in a boon for the explorer, it’s somehow snapped up tenure right in the heart of De Grey Mining’s (ASX:DEG) massive Pilbara gold project area and a stone’s throw from its monster world-class 10.5Mt Hemi deposit and 600,000oz Withnell mine.

De Grey is something of a unicorn for gold exploration in the Pilbara in recent past.

As noted earlier the last gold rush to happen in the region in 2017 turned out to be mostly hype based around conglomerate, or ‘nuggety gold’ in Witwatersrand-style mineralisation.

A bunch of juniors got excited about it – and so did the ASX, so more than a dozen Pilbara-related gold explorers popped their heads up in earnest, including DGO Gold, Kairos Minerals (ASX:KAI), Venturex Resources – now Bill Beament from Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) fame’s Develop Global (ASX:DVP) – and others.

It turned out that the Witwatersrand-style mineralisation wasn’t to be, and many have left the Pilbara to greener-energy mineral pastures since – that is, except one, of exceptional note.

De Grey is the explorer which got the cake and is now eating it too – at the recent RIU Explorers conference in Fremantle, its GM of exploration Phil Tornatora got up in front of a standing-room-only crowd to give an update on what lies ahead for the project.

A significant DFS released in September last year flagged Hemi as a future top 5 Aussie gold mine, forecasting a 5300,000ozpa run rate over just the first decade of production which is flagged to kick off in 2026.

Tornatora says exploration will continue to be a key value driver for the company.

“We see that there’s potential to increase all the Hemi deposits at depth. A lot of them remain open along strike as well. There’s immediate potential for resource extensions at Diucon, Eagle and Antwerp and also several of the regional deposits,” Tornatora says.


Wagyu got there mate?

That puts nearby tenements such as NAE’s exploration license – dubbed the Wagyu project – into the limelight and potentially be transformational for the company.

The junior is paying just two payments of $5,000 for the mineral and exploration rights after conducting a detailed review of the Central Pilbara’s regional geophysics to assess for ‘Hemi-style’ targets, landing on the tenure as an area of significant interest.


The Wagyu gold project, right near De Grey’s monster Hemi deposit. Source: NAE.


NAE exec director Joshua Wellisch says the company is thrilled to acquire Wagyu, which represents a highly prospective opportunity along strike from the Hemi, the Pilbara’s largest-ever gold discovery.

“The project significantly enhances our Pilbara footprint and aligns with our strategy of securing the most promising exploration tenure in the Central Pilbara,” Wellisch says.

“The possibility of the project’s acquisition has been in the making for several years, and we are all extremely excited to commence exploration.”


While GreenTech Metals and New Age Exploration are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.